The apocalyptic group The Family and their guru, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, captured international headlines throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Hamilton-Byrne, who some followers believed was Jesus Christ, was glamorous and charismatic -- and, many allege, very dangerous. She acquired children -- some through adoption and some born to cult members -- and raised them as her own, bleaching their hair blonde to make them look like siblings. The group, which grew out of Anne's yoga classes in the heady days of the countercultural movement, became surrounded by rumours of LSD use, child abuse, and strange spiritual rituals.
In 1987, police swooped on The Family's lakeside compound and rescued children who claimed they were part of Anne's future master race. The children recounted terrible stories of near starvation, emotional manipulation, and physical abuse. But Anne could not be found, sparking an international police hunt that involved Interpol and the FBI. Could they bring Anne to justice?
Today, the elderly Anne lives in a nursing home with dementia. She has only one criminal conviction to her name, but her estate is estimated to be worth millions. Her few remaining followers attend her bedside.
How did such a notorious group come to flourish in suburban Melbourne? How did Anne, one of few female cult leaders, maintain a hold over her followers? Drawing on police files, diary entries, recordings of Anne, and original interviews with survivors and investigators, The Family goes inside one of the most bizarre cults in modern history to expose its strange and shocking story.
About the Author
Chris Johnston is a senior writer for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, based in Melbourne. He has been covering developments related to The Family for several years.
Rosie Jones is an award-winning writer, director, and editor. Her most recent credits include the feature documentary The Triangle Wars (Best Australian Documentary, Antenna Documentary Festival 2011), Westall '66: a suburban UFO mystery and Obsessed with Walking, about the Booker-nominated writer Will Self. She has edited numerous documentaries, including James Cameron’s feature documentary, DeepSea Challenge 3D, and the multi-awarded short docs Queen of the Desert and My Brother Vinnie.
"Harrowing but humane. An extraordinary story, impeccably researched."--Martin McKenzie-Murray
'The Family is remarkably clear-sighted. The writers have a gift for temperate yet compelling prose that unflinchingly reveals the delusions and unreflective righteousness of much of what emerged from the counterculture. In this book, the best of what journalism should be--honest, unsentimental, incisive--is combined with the craft and storytelling skills of born writers.'--Christos Tsiolkas
'Immaculately researched ... This important book looks at how (and asks why) these abuses happened, defying the cult's motto: "unseen, unheard, unknown."'--Readings
'Everyone loves a good cult story. And they don't come much better. This is the gripping story behind one of the strangest, most fascinating episodes in Australian history.'--GQ
'A powerful work of investigative journalism ... pieced together in exacting detail'--Reading Matters
'It's a remarkable [story]: hair-raising, unfathomable and deeply disturbing.'--Irish Independent
'[A] compelling account of one of Australia's most notorious cults ... The authors trace the extraordinary life of a woman who operated ''at the edges of human belief''.'--The Saturday Age